It's my first week as Kavana's new Rabbinic Fellow, and I want to reach out to you to introduce myself and try to convey just some of my immense excitement for being here working with you
It's my first week as Kavana's new Rabbinic Fellow, and I want to reach out to you to introduce myself and try to convey just some of my immense excitement for being here working with you.
This season feels full of possibility, not only because of today's glorious weather, but because of so many new beginnings: We just moved to Seattle (an exciting return "back West" for us); our daughter Amaryah turned one the very day we arrived and our son Erez Noam turned three exactly one week later; the kids started in their new day care and pre-school (Erez Noam will be at Kavana's Gan this Fall and enjoyed the Kavana Mini-Camp last week, Amaryah will join him in a year); and my wife Pella got a very cool new job the day after we arrived! All of these are exciting developments that have us feeling like Seattle is welcoming us and that this marks the beginning of a new phase of growth and learning for the whole family.
And of course, my new job is practically bursting with possibility. I will be working in several areas, all of them exciting and interesting to me in their own ways, including social justice, the teen program, the Friday night musical service, adult education, spirituality, B'nai Mitzvah, and more yet to be discovered. And it's not just the work but the setting that excites me -- Kavana feels like just the right place for me to be. I love that Kavana is a diverse group of people who come together to connect and take ownership of their Judaism -- this approach speaks to me as someone who draws from many expressions of Judaism and as a former community organizer. And also as a community organizer, I am thrilled that Kavana is about partnership -- between and amongst partners and rabbis and staff. I am truly looking forward to learning and creating and acting and celebrating together with you. And of course, being part of the Jewish Emergent Network Fellowship is thrilling -- learning what makes innovative communities like Kavana tick, together with the other JEN Fellows, speaks to my interest in creativity and change-making in Jewish community. In Kavana and JEN, I feel like I've really won the prize. I became a rabbi to do work just like this with folks just like you.
This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, relates a remarkable story of partnership that led to historic change. Five women -- the daughters of Tzelophchad (if anyone thought our kids' names were a mouthful...!) -- acted boldly together in advocating for their right to inherit their late father's property. They were met with receptivity first by Moses and then by God, who responded by incorporating their innovation into the laws of the Torah. The fact that partnership -- first among the sisters, and ultimately between them and Moses and God -- was integral to this important early step towards greater equality should give us confidence that our partnership model is on the right track and has precedent in our tradition. And it seems like an auspicious time to begin my partnership with you -- to together introduce innovations into the Jewish world, to together transform our own lives and the world around us.
Please feel free to reach out to me (email@example.com) to meet over coffee/tea or for a walk (especially while the weather is like this!) -- one of the things I like best about this work is all the opportunities to get to know people, so I will really welcome the opportunity. We can talk about Kavana, our Jewish journeys, visions for Kavana and the future, and what we might do together. And we're always looking for folks to spend time at parks with on weekends while the kids play, or to celebrate Shabbat with in Queen Anne, so let us know if you're into those things, too.
The Torah is usually terse and concise, but this week's parasha, Chayei Sarah, centers around a long story that is anything but! All 67 verses of Genesis chapter 24 are devoted to a single narrative: the tale of Abraham sending his servant on a journey to find a wife for his son Isaac, and returning with Rebecca, a woman of great agency, strength and generosity.
We Jews know how to wait. That is, we deeply understand humanity's imperfections, and that the presence of injustice or cruelty in our world cannot undermine our steadfast focus on trying to achieve our vision of a more perfect, more just future. We have lots of historical experience to draw on, and much language for this kind of spiritual resilience. One line that's been swimming through my head this week is from the prayer "Ani Maamin": "v'af al pi she-yitmameah, im kol zeh achakeh lo." Translating loosely here (and transposing what we're waiting for from a messianic figure to a time characterized by messianic ideals), this means: despite the fact that it's taking a long time for the world to change in the ways we believe it should, still, we are undeterred; we will wait - and work - until we arrive at an era of peace and justice.
Yesterday was the second anniversary of the violent attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Its memory casts a long shadow for me, and this year, the anniversary feels like a powerful reminder of the very high stakes of next week’s election.